This is Marvel's best TV show in years — and it's 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

L-R): Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Gambit (voiced by AJ LoCascio), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), Beast (voiced by George Buza) in Marvel Animation's X-MEN '97.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Marvel Animation)

"X-Men '97" is part of a fairly light slate of TV shows and movies for Marvel this year. Marvel's 2024 lineup includes just a handful of TV shows and only one movie — "Deadpool & Wolverine" — so it was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser that one of the lone Marvel properties this year wasn't even part of the MCU.

Yes, you read that right. This show isn't part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon. Instead, it's a reboot/sequel hybrid, following up on the popular "X-Men: The Animated Series" show from the 1990s. Given that the latest batch of shows and movies from Marvel have fallen flat, it seemed like reviving this show was simply a shameless nostalgia play.

Whether it's a nostalgia play or not though, this show works. Sure, the intro theme song for the show is unchanged from the original '90s cartoon, but who cares when the episodes are some of the best TV Marvel has made in years? Yes, it helps to have watched the original show, especially while watching episode 1 of this new show. But by the end of episode 2, the show settles into a rhythm and stands on its own as enjoyable television.

I'm not alone in thinking "X-Men-97" is nostalgia done right. As of this writing, the show has a perfect 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and audiences aren't far behind at 90%. The show isn't perfect, but it's good, and probably the best Marvel show since "Loki" season 1. Here's why it works so well.

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

(Image credit: Future)

Spoilers for the first two episodes of 'X-Men '97' follow

'X-Men '97' isn't just nostalgia

There's plenty of blatant nostalgia on display in this show's first two episodes. As mentioned, the theme is unchanged from decades ago and many of the original voice cast members are back. The animation style is slightly updated — and probably the show's biggest weakness — but it too is relatively unchanged. Rogue still talks in a ridiculous manner and Logan, aka Wolverine, still says "Bub."

But this show is already standing on its own. At the end of the first episode, Magneto is introduced in a jaw-dropping twist. Is it a twist that was spoiled in the trailer? Well ... yes, but it still works and is exactly what you'd expect from a top-tier TV drama rather than a reboot of a children's cartoon show.

(L-R): Magneto (voiced by Matthew Waterson) and Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase) in Marvel Animation's X-MEN '97.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Marvel Animation)

In fact, Magneto's entire character arc through the first two episodes has been the stuff of prestige TV. While I have my doubts that this will be one of my top shows of 2024 (though not impossible!), this rendition of the famous X-Men villain may be one of my favorite TV characters of the year. In the second episode, he gets more than his fair share of monologues and they work. It's a show-stealing performance.

Again, there are flaws and things you might bump up against. The beginning of the first episode may be jarring for X-Men newcomers, as there's a lot of stuff you're expected to know at first. That said, as things go on the show does lay out exposition to bring you up to speed. And if this style of animation isn't for you, then even Magneto's excellence may not be enough to win you over.

But if you're open to not necessarily knowing everything that is going on and are fine with the animation style, this Disney Plus original is definitely worth watching. I know I'll certainly be keeping up with the rest of the 10-episode first season.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.